Active collection: When consumers consciously interact with a Google product and provide it with personal information, like signing up for Gmail or using Search.
Passive collection: The less obvious method that sometimes collects data without user’s knowledge, including apps running in the background, Google’s advertising tools and its operating system Android.
What Google does with your data
With the above two methods across its many products, Google is able to learn about our behaviour, both online and in the real word, and build a comprehensive profile on us.
And combined with its expansive reach, with billions using at least one of their products every day, Google not only personalises your user experience but it’s also able to mint money from targeted ads based on data it has collected on your activities and interests.
More than 80% of Google’s total revenue comes just from its ad business. In the last quarter, the company earned $32.6 billion from ads and just $6.6 billion from other sources.
What Google learns about you in an average day
Google collects enough location data to tell if you’re walking, running or in a moving vehicle. On your commute to work if you take a Metro, Google Maps tracks your location with GPS coordinates of your IP address. It can also use nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi access points to track you.
Your search history is recorded by Google and is used to identify your interests and recomment similar content or specifically target you with ads.
The music app records the type of music you’re interested in to build its profile on you to send targeted ads.
What all did you buy
Google Pay not only has your debit and credit card details, it also collects specifics of your transactions like the products you bought, how many times you purchased, and names and locations of the merchants. This is used to send you targeted ads.
Scanning you emails
Google scans your email to identify your interests. It can even track appointments based on contextual information in a mail. Google customises ads based on the contents of emails you send and receive.
Nearly impossible to avoid
On Android devices, Google gets notified even when you use third-party apps. YouTube records what videos you watch and where and when you watch them. It tracks you even if you watch a YouTube video on a non-Google website.
Android and Chrome are key platforms in Google’s data collection drive. Even on a non-Google OS, like Apple’s iOS, Google has considerable access to your data, largely through its advertising services.